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The parable of the shrewd manager – Luke 16:1-13

The parable of the shrewd manager

Holy Trinity, Hadley, 19th September 2010

Introduction

  • I’m sure Lucie would tell you that I am the worst person to be talking about any passage to do with money as I am completely incompetent when it comes to banks, direct debits, insurance and all that stuff!
  • the ‘Giving pledge’ (beginning of August)
    • Bill Gates & Warren Buffet encouraging billionaires to give away at least half of their wealth to charity. So far 40 of the worlds richest individuals and families have signed up.
      • Laura and John Arnold: “We view our wealth in this light – not as an end in itself, but as an instrument to effect positive and transformative change.”
      • Peter G. Peterson: “As I watched and learned from my father’s example, I noticed how much pleasure his giving to others gave him. Indeed, today, I get much more pleasure giving money to what I consider worthwhile causes than making the money in the first place.”
      • Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest: “The ultimate achievement in life is how you feel about yourself. And giving your wealth away to have an impact for good does help with that feeling.”
    • Some of these guys may have gained their money by, if not immoral then at least unethical means, however the benefits of their generosity are very real regardless of the means by which they are able to be generous.

Parable

  • This has been described as the “most difficult passage in Luke’s gospel
  • When you come across difficult passages in the bible then it’s good to look at the passages around it to get an idea of the context.
  • Part of a section of Luke’s gospel on things of value
    • Lost sheep, lost coin, lost son, shrewd manager, rich man + Lazarus
    • Trying to get across the difference between worldly wealth and heavenly treasure, importance of looking after the things that you have been entrusted with.
  • Jesus shows a real engagement with the ways of the world, knows the sorts of tricks that go on.
  • Manager is squandering his masters possessions, gets called to account and is unceremoniously sacked
    • Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer
  • uses the position he is in to help others so that when he is sacked he will not have to stoop so low for help himself.
    • I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg
  • Gets commended, not for his dishonesty but for his shrewdness
  • He used the resources available to him to both help others and to help himself
  • Some people argue that Jesus is saying that it’s ok to be dishonest
  • I don’t believe that’s the point Jesus is making, he’s not commenting on the morality of the manager’s behaviour
  • He is giving an example of how people use money/possessions shrewdly and for a gain that is more than just money
    • He enhances his position and helps his master’s debtors
  • He is saying: “Even the crooks of the world know that money is a tool and not an end in itself, why can’t you people of faith understand that?”
  • coming back to the ‘Giving Pledge’ I mentioned earlier, regardless of how they earned their money
    • how many of those billionaires will end up worse off in any significant way?
      • Warren Buffett: “Were we to use more than 1% of my claim checks on ourselves, neither our happiness nor our well-being would be enhanced. In contrast, that remaining 99% can have a huge effect on the health and welfare of others.”
    • How many of them would end up looking bad as a result of giving half their money to charity?

Application

  • So how does this apply to us?
    • No servant can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Money
  • We are called to serve God and money is just one tool which we can use to do that
  • Anne Robertson says of this passage:
    • Earthly money is like Monopoly money…it is how we practice being faithful
  • As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6
    • Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously”
  • It’s easy to think, especially in this economic climate, that we just don’t have enough to be generous, it can be a real struggle to give away a little of your hard earned money
    • However, if we don’t get in the habit of being generous when we have a little then, if circumstances change and we do find ourselves in a position of wealth, it can be harder to change that habit.
  • The other point that Jesus is making is about being shrewd and responsible with money.
    • It’s easy to separate our Christian lives off from our financial lives but Jesus’ point is that actually our faith should influence every single sphere of our lives, including our finances.
    • We should be checking we are getting a good deal on our insurance, mortgages, loans etc. indeed it’s biblical to do so.
    • If we are using our money efficiently then it will free us up to be more generous
  • If we are wise and generous with the gifts God has given us on this earth, not seeking wealth for wealth’s sake but looking to serve God with whatever we have, then God will bless us, both in this world and in the world to come.
  • However if we cannot be faithful with what we have in this world then why would God trust us with anything of real value?
  • No servant can serve two masters, we need to make our choice.
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